Federal NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp has offered a blueprint on how to defeat the Conservative government under Stephen Harper.
At a town-hall meeting at the Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby today, Topp told 125 party members that the NDP must not copy Conservative campaign tactics by focusing on the negative.
"So what’s the Conservative playbook?" Topp asked. "It’s to get people angry, to divide them from each other, and to persuade the people not to vote. That’s what their negative ads are all about. They don’t call their negative ads 'negative ads'. They call them voter suppression."
He claimed that billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. Republican party, various think tanks, and others on refining negative messages. Their goal, Topp insisted, is primarily to discourage women, young people, and workers from voting.
"The right wing has been copying these techniques all around the world," he maintained. "And they’ve been very successful at suppressing the vote. And therefore, getting their minority—the right-wing conservative minority—to win elections. Just look at voter turnout. It has been steadily dropping all around the world as conservatives have been going by the playbook, which is about getting people angry, dividing them from each other, and getting the rest of the people not to vote."
He went on to say that the federal Liberals blundered by trying to go negative against Harper, which only reinforced the Conservatives' objectives.
Former NDP leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, tried a different approach, according to Topp, who was elected party president last year.
"Yes Jack took them on, and we have to keep taking them on—right between the eyes, right at them," Topp stated. "But he never attacked the Conservatives without also making a positive proposal. A propositional attack. And so when women and young people and working people listened to Jack, they thought this guy is offering me something better."
Topp said that in the next election, the federal New Democrats will be running to form the government. And he suggested that they emphasize their record in government in the past, which he claimed was the best of any party.
"We are the most fiscally responsible with an excellent record of economic management," he said. "Just look at our excellent record here in British Columbia compared to the abysmal Liberal record in British Columbia."
He characterized the NDP as "socially progressive, environmentally responsible”. Then he urged party members to "reach deeply into those traditions and marry them to Jack Layton’s hopeful, optimistic approach" to move forward to victory.
"We should not defeat ourselves even as we’re winning by adopting the agendas of our opponents," he said. "So I will insist that we do not have to become Liberals to win."
To that end, he mentioned his desire to increase the marginal federal tax rate to 35 percent from 29 percent on any income over $250,000.
Topp also promised to tax capital gains at the same rate as other income. More than a decade ago, former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin reduced the capital-gains tax rate to 50 percent of that of working income.
"We cannot do the rest of our platform if we don't address this issue," Topp declared.
The meeting attracted mostly grassroots members, but NDP MPs Libby Davies and Kennedy Stewart and former MP Bill Siksay were among those in the audience.